As one of the people responsible for bringing you the concerts in our series, I listen at our events for two different things. One ear is tuned to the music; the other is paying attention to our audience. How is the music being received? That informs our discussions when we plan future seasons.

With that in mind, I was very interested in the applause at the end of Laura Altenmueller’s lovely piano recital on Friday. It was warmer than usual. It went on longer than usual. She was called back for a third bow. That does not happen very often with our audience, and it took some persistent clapping to bring her out for that third appearance.

So what accounts for this? The quick answer would be the music—the choice of repertoire or how well it was played. That is what we come to a concert to hear, and that is what we acknowledge with our response to the performance.

The music is important. Laura gave us a wonderful opening with that lyrical gem from Bortkiewicz. I heard from someone that they have listened to it four times on YouTube since the concert. The Messiaen preludes were a remarkable insight into a most creative mind. The entire second half indulged us with the beauty of Chopin’s preludes.

But the music did not fully account for the fervid response from the audience. I have seen technically masterful performances met with polite clapping. I have seen wild applause given to performances that were clearly not virtuosic. There are other less tangible factors that determine how an audience experiences a concert.

Often it is the communication between musician and listener. It may be words that are shared. It may be more subtle actions that connect. It may be something inside the listener that brings him or her to the concert hall open and ready to take in what is offered. On the other hand, the cares of life may impair one’s ability to listen and absorb.

One factor that I believe played an important role in Friday’s concert was community. Laura was one of us. She had family in attendance. Friends came to hear her play. Some who did not know her well learned to appreciate her through the fascinating accounts shared by her teachers in the pre-concert talk. But we all came wishing her well. We were the kind of audience that lifts a performer.

In return, Laura gave us everything that she had poured into her rehearsing, everything that these works had come to mean for her. She came back to the community that had supported her and played her thanks for all to hear. She made her family, her friends, her teachers proud. And she left an audience happy that they had been there to share that experience—all of it, from the music to the emotion in the building.

I felt it all around me at the end of the evening. I pay attention to that, and it made me happy. It was one of the intangibles that transform an excellent performance into an experience that moves and delights us. I couldn’t think of a better way to end our season.

John Wiebe - President

The Valley Concert Society